Conversation

This is the story behind the song “Conversation”

I found myself at an open mic one night where a guy at the bar bought me a beer because he liked my set. I had decided to play some Doobie Brothers that night and I guess he was a fan. In any case, I felt that I should take a few minutes to have a chat with him. The conversation started off normal enough, but then I could feel it slipping into more contentious territory. This was prior to Covid, but I think that people who believe things they read on the Internet are particularly prone to forming wild ideas that disconnect them from reality. For this individual, that was the case and think it has gotten worse for people like him since the lockdown.

I’ve found and BLOG’d about how certain politicians have made it acceptable to say things that were previously kept to ones self. As the conversation progressed, I found myself talking less and less to avoid setting off the pent up anxiety that this person was waiting to let loose. When there was a break in the conversation, I was able to excuse myself, but the experience has made me cautious about who I talk to and what I say.

A few weeks later I arrived late in Playa Del Carman and went to the resort’s restaurant for a snack. My wife was going to join me there the next day, so I was by myself. When the meal was done, I discovered that I was the only one left in the restaurant with half a dozen waiters. We chatted for a while and they asked me if there was anything else I needed. Jokingly, I said that I could really use a guitar and commented that it was too expensive for me to bring my own. The head waiter went away and came back with a junior waiter who offered me his guitar for the week. I played a few covers for them and they asked me if I would perform at the restaurant the next evening. I told them that I was flattered but that my wife was coming and that I should be a good husband and focus on her.

The next morning, I wrote the song “Conversation” while swinging in a hammock on my cabana’s front porch. When I completed the song, I gave the guitar back to the waiter and slipped a tip into the guitar bag.

During the production of the song, my cousin added a synth violin part. The part was good but the synth just didn’t do it justice. A few other friends in the Ottawa music community suggested that I speak with a young talented violinist in Toronto (Brigit O’Regan). She took the original violin part and added her own flare. The result is track number 4. I hope you enjoy it.

If you want to checkout the album you can preview tracks and get links to music providers at http://northof60.hearnow.com

..FG..

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Hey Jason

Hey Everyone,

I’m going to try to post a series on what was on my mind while writing the songs on the new album “Wind&Fire” by my band “NorthOf60”.

I should probably start by saying that the name has more to do with how long each of the band members has been on the planet rather than a reference to degrees of latitude.

The songs were written in 2019 so that should give you a time perspective. In actual fact there were 60 songs written during that period, but only 16 made the album.

For the song in question, I would like to say that I listen to many different music genres from pop (Ed Sheehan, Taylor Swift) to Valdy (Canadian folk) and everything in-between. When Jason Alden came out with his last album “9”, I was listening to it in the kitchen while doing the dishes and I realized it was about the same as the previous 8 albums. That prompted me to write the song “Hey Jason” as a way of offering some friendly advice.

Remember that at the time of writing, the president of the USA was being impeached for a phone call that boarded on what some would call questionable territory. The USA was separating children from their parents at their southern boarder. A number of shooters had gone on rampages in the USA (El Paso) and the view from north of the boarder was that our southern neighbours were losing it. A couple of latin American countries had actually issued travel advisories.

I really like Jason’s songs but I decided to challenge him to write something with a bit more bite. There was no shortage of things to write about at the time, but there were definitely two different views so taking a stand could be hazardous to ones health. Maybe there will be something on his next album. Do you think he will call it “10”?

If you haven’t heard “Wind&Fire” yet you can preview it at http://northof60.hearnow.com

..FG..

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The StateOfThings

Hey Readers,

It’s been four months or so since the world started it’s transition to what we have today. I suspect the changes will continue well into next year and perhaps even beyond that. Companies have discovered that their workforce’s can be just as productive at home and many have closed regional offices. There are a small handful that have migrated to have the entire company remote. I was already working from home two days a week so the transition was no big deal for me. The savings for the company however are hard to ignore and I predict that working remotely is here to stay.

I feel that we are at an inflection point with respect to Covid-19 changes. Countries like the USA and Canada have started to re-open and I fear that this is premature. The USA is on track to exceed 100000 deaths next week with a reduced but fairly consistent new case and death rate. Warmer weather and sunshine are encouraging people to leave their houses, but it seems that they are also dropping their guard and therein lies the gotcha.

Governments are promoting better tracking with apps and making isolation mandatory for travelers and even enforcing it with laws. Some countries have started to consider travel bubbles. Countries can participate in a travel bubble if they maintain low infection rates and enforce agreed to rules. Other countries like Nicaragua just refuse to acknowledge that Covid-19 even exists and blame deaths on other causes. There is no doubt in my mind that the numbers we see are a best effort guess at the extent of the damage. The reality is the numbers are much higher and it will be some time before we really understand what has happened.

Side effects and long term repercussions of Covid-19 are just now starting to be documented and they are scary to say the least.

If you have to go out, please do so with care and respect for a disease that could kill you or your loved ones. Wear a mask. wash your hands and stay away from large crowds. One of the things that they tell all medical students is “You can’t cure stupid”. We may not be able to cure stupid and we all suffer from bouts of stupid, but now stupid will kill you.

So please don’t be stupid.

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Next Generation Networks

Hey Everyone,

I have been doing a lot of learning about what 5G is going to bring to the world. It is truly an amazing advancement with next generation radios that provide multi-connectivity and distributed cloud technology that will revolutionize industry. With 5G it will be possible to deploy low latency applications close to the edge in what is called far-edge cloud. Many network functions will be virtualized and deployed in a distributed cloud, based on latency requirements. 5G will drive “Industry 4.0” making it possible to automate production facilities. Remote workers will be able to monitor assembly lines with video and high speed robotic controls. Factory footprints will be smaller, links will be wide, reliable and fast. These technologies will make it cost effective to produce in country and compete globally.

We have learned a lot from this Covid-19 lock down, and one of the things that we have learned is that we need to be able to produce some level of everything we consume. When things get tight, Governments force suppliers to give local markets priority. For example we are having to retool to produce things like masks and hand sanitizer because we couldn’t produce them cost effectively in Canada and our supplies have dried up.

Things are about to change in a big way and that change will be driven by technologies like 5G. I believe the future will be wireless, the question in my mind is, will it be 5G or will it be Starlink? Latency on Starlink will not be able to match 5G but it does provide coverage in areas that 5G cannot effectively address.

Technology aside, I’d like to steal a line from a song…

“The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades”

..FG..

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Election 2019

Well that was an interesting few months. Now that it’s over maybe it’s time for a comment (or two).

I’ve blogged before about how I thought that American politics has been effecting the world negatively and it seemed to hold true for the Canadian election. It’s not the craziness that we see in the USA, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Russia, China … but it was the craziest Canadian election that I remember. America has made it acceptable for people to speak their mind independent of facts or reason.

At one point early on in the election, I was wondering if any of the Party’s actually had a platform. It seemed that they were so busy throwing stones at each other, there wouldn’t actually be any issues discussed. Another surprise was how it continued even after the voting was done. I had to stop following the Ottawa Citizen because they were posting articles to fuel the fire rather than point out that the people want to know where the parties stands on issues. This is almost along the same lines as CNN vs Fox in the USA. What happened to the integrity of new agencies and their mandate to find and expose the truth?

I certainly hope that we can reign in the rhetoric and act like adults for the next election. It seems that politicians are focusing on divisive issues to stir the pot and to build a radical following. I wonder where they got that approach from?

I would like to believe that more people think like me and that the Liberal government was re-elected with a minority to force parties to work together. I am very concerned about the clear divisions in what I considered the best and most stable country on the planet bar none. I would like to ask each and every one of you to not accept, and to speak out against, divisive rhetoric and publications. Maybe even to go as far as to say “I won’t vote for anyone who dedicates their campaign to personal attacks on other leaders”.

You want to run the country? This is a job interview. Tell me why you think you are qualified.

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Todays News

Hey Guys,

Today CNN reported that Saudi Arabia displayed debris from the refinery attack that proves the drone attack was sponsored by Iran.

I’m not going to say that was not the case but if you follow that logic, every attack in the world by a foreign country that purchased weapons from the USA would make the USA responsible.

Am I missing something?

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Just People …

I recently was exposed to some posters at work that made me ask myself some soul searching questions. The posters were LBGT promotional posters and I couldn’t identify what exactly upset me about them. I asked myself questions like “Are you anti-gay? Are you prejudiced?”

In order to understand my thought process, I have to give you a bit of history.

My mother was ahead of her time in that she raised her children to be very aware of prejudice and to know that it is wrong. She would tell us that the only thing that exists in the world are people. There is no such thing as “White People”, Black People”, etc… Just People.

Being a very literal child, I accepted her words and when I started playing hockey, I hit the girls just as hard as I hit the guys (because we were all just people). In order to treat the girls fairly, I couldn’t give them any special treatment. That didn’t end well.

I have always stayed true to my believe in equality, so I found it very hard to accept that prejudice had creeped into my life.

After three days of soul searching, I came to the realization that I am not prejudice (which was quite a relief).  I did make some additional discoveries along the way however that were quite interesting.

My objection to the posters was actually rooted in what my mother had taught me. My problem is with groups that use differences to group people into categories. The LBGT posters were highlighting a difference that would divide people as a whole.

“People as a whole benefit from differences but they should never be used to divide us.”

The group in question would no doubt argue that they were all inclusive, but the message on the poster was not clear on that point.

Things like food, dance and traditions span the entire of the human race (People) and when celebrated, add colour to our existence as long as these celebrations are all inclusive.

This thinking lead me to question other less obvious groups. For example:

Question: I’m Canadian and many of my relatives (by marriage) are American. These groups are not openly inclusive so does that mean these groups are bad?

I had to think on this one for quite a while, but in the end I concluded that they are indeed bad (or at a minimum, could use some improvement). Life is not Boolean (True/False) and there are degrees of Bad. Being the citizen of a country does not inherently make a person bad. Being a global citizen however does make a person better. If we celebrate being Canadian and don’t exclude people because they are not Canadian, then we are on the good side of bad.

Question: So what about sports fans? Does belonging to group that supports a specific team make a person bad? It does divide people and has been responsible for altercations and in some cases riots.

I came to the conclusion that at the most basic level these types of groups are indeed bad. That said, I’m really glad there are degrees of bad, because I’m going to continue to support my Ottawa Senators[grin]. I don’t think that supporting your sports team is bad unless you take it too seriously. If you feel you have to fight others that don’t share your views, then you’re on the bad side of bad.

There will be more thinking on this issue, but I feel much better about the moral ground that I’m standing on.

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New Project

Hey Readers,

Just a heads up that I have been working on a new project. You could say that I have enough projects already but I would counter with “There’s always room for one more [grin]”.

At one point in my life I coached young people who wanted to break into the music industry. Two of those young people have gone on to record albums and one makes a living playing and teaching music. I on the other hand have not recorded or released any original material. I’ve been writing my own songs (on and off)  for 5 decades, so I decided that it’s time to put some effort into creating an album of my own.

The creating of the lyrics was not that difficult (but still ongoing). The matching of the lyrics to the music, the recording, the arranging and the mixing of the tracks has proven to be the real challenge. I naively thought that I would write a song, add a few chords and I would be done.

It turns out, the number of tricks and tips required to record just one quality track is unbelievable. I probably have over a hundred hours invested and I can’t say I’m happy with anything so far. I have been trading tips and tricks with other musicians and building up my knowledge in the recording space, so hopefully progress will be made. I also purchased a Zoom-R16 portable studio and I’m quite impressed with what it can do.

Everything is in flux at the moment but stay tuned for progress reports. If you have tips and tricks to share, I’m all ears…

There will be an album release party at some point and if you’re in the Ottawa area, you’re invited!!

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An Observation

I try to pay attention to what is going on and to learn from mistakes (Mine and others).

Recently I was pondering how the world has found itself in such a mess politics wise. Politicians seem to be able to convince the public that they are qualified to hold office and the public tends to believe them even when the facts indicate the opposite.

The Liberal government in Ontario (where I live) was in power for a number of terms making bad decisions and breaking election promises and the public kept voting them in. Is that because the alternative was worse or did the public actually believe they would do something different during their next term? When they were recently voted out, the people elected a leader that clearly has no ability to lead. He is making more bad decisions that will no doubt cause damage that will take years to fix.

In the United States the public elected “The Donald”. I’ve spoken to a lot of people since that fateful day and it seems there is a general mistrust of politicians in the USA. That coupled with a belief that their system would prevent political extremes, created a false sense of security. There are still some people who believe he was the right choice, but I think there are more that realize he was a mistake. Unfortunately his opponent was not considered to be a good alternative. You would think that in a two party system you would want the best candidate possible so you could win the next election. I find it interesting that both parties seem to be leaning towards running the same candidates. In the mean time, Mr Trump is trying he best to start so many fires his people can’t put them all out.

Then we have Venezuela. The people actually voted in Maduro because he managed to convince them that their country needed to distance itself from the influence of the United States. Venezuela had the highest standard of living of all countries in South America at the time. Once in power however he turned out to be yet another self important dictator who changed the rules to make sure he remained in power and bankrupted his country in the process. Large parts of the population have fled the country causing problems for surrounding countries.

In Colombia the people elected a new leader that has done his best to destroy the fragile peace that his predecessor negotiated with the FARC. He seems to be taking a hard line with the rebel factions and that has brought fighting back to the streets of Bogota. It is generally believed that he violated a Christmas truce to attack the remaining rebels. They in turn used a car bomb to kill police graduates at a ceremony in Bogota.

Then we have China, Russia and Brazil. Russia and China have leaders that changed the rules to make sure they stay in power and Brazil could very well be on a similar course.

Many countries have instituted laws to insure a separation of church and state. History taught us that religion is a powerful tool that can be used to influence governments against the people.

It seems that we have new problems now. The political parties are selecting leaders who are not qualified to lead and it seems that the people believe that they have to elect radicals to effect change.

I really don’t know what has to happen to put the world back on corse. I fear that crazy feeds crazy and there will be more chaos before the political world realizes what most of the public already knows.

“We all live on the same planet and we all come into this world and leave it the same way.

We are simply people, all born equal.

We may have differing opinions but there is no one right answer or way to do something.

We need to be considerate.  

Governments need to make decisions that benefit the people they represent.

    We need to treat each other with respect.

We need to all contribute to the betterment of the world to the best of our ability and not take advantage of each other.

    We need to think like global citizens.

I am not better than anyone else and no one is better than me.”

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How are we supposed to help?

As we get older and perhaps our expenses start to decline, some of us find ourselves in a position where we would like to give back. Giving back is a good thing but it’s not always obvious how we should do that. If we take the easy way out and give to local charities or globally recognized charities, the posted stats show that a larger percentage than I am comfortable with goes to the organization. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t give to local charities, just that I’m looking for more.

So what is the best way to give back? Spoiler alert… I don’t know the answer.

I would like to think that research gives us a bit of insight into the needs of a particular area but for every article you read there is another one that calls the first one a scam. It’s clear that there are people in need around the world and it’s clear that you can’t “Teach a man to fish” when he has no food, water, access to a body of water and no fishing equipment.

Venezuela seems to be an obvious hot spot at the moment, but sending anything there, even to friends, often gets intercepted. The currency is worthless and it seems that there is nothing to buy even if you have money.

Other places like Brazil and Colombia are doing an amazing job opening their doors to refugees, but migrating is not an easy choice and once the people have migrated, getting aid to them has more challenges.

I looked into programs that help with home builds but they take a percentage as an overhead fee and they are really expensive. In many cases they are vacations with a tax that contributes to home construction.

Maybe this exists already and if it does please send me a URL.

It would be nice to have a certified open source like community that maintains a web page with links to people in need, suggestions on how to make a long term difference  and volunteer opportunities that make sense.

The site (Like Wikipedia) would have to be moderated and endorsed by governments of countries that want to attract longer term solutions to local problems.

A place where people who want to donate know that every single dollar is going to contribute to a long term solution. This site would describe programs in a way that defined the goal, the need and the proposed solution. It would detail the risks (government intervention for example) and predict the probability of success. It would be open to the general public so that anyone could define a program. Programs would be vetted by neutral third parties and ranked using a published formula.

For people who want to volunteer, it would detail the risks, make travel and accommodation suggestions and contain guidelines that would give volunteers a good idea for potential risks to personal health and safety.

This would not be a site for vacation planning, it would be a site focused on making a difference.

I realize that conditions at each location (Governments, skilled labour, & lack of resources, to name just a few), contribute to the likelihood of success, so those things would need to be worked into the formula for success.

If such a site existed, governments of countries with people in need might actually use the formula to consider changes that would lead to people getting help?

Perhaps the formula itself could motivate long term change.

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